NYC subway proves boon to the city and environment

ED. In Vancouver the car is king and government builds even more roads to encourage auto use.  New York, on the other hand, is so advanced in its public transportation system that we should be modeling ours on this American city, rather than having big business tell us what we should build.


More than half of the households in New York do not own a car and up to 75 per cent of the population of Manhattan is without four-wheeled transport, thanks to the city’s mass rapid transit system and their extensive network of public transport.

Due to the New York City Subway, one of the few 24-hour metro services of the world, and the fact that New Yorkers use the public transport very extensively, it is one of the most energy-efficient cities in the US.

One in every three mass transit users in the US, or 4.9 million people a day, use the New York City Subway, which is the largest subway system in the world, measured by track mileage. It has grown from 28 stations when it was founded in October of 1904 to 462 stations at present.

In fact, it is a remarkable example of how use of Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) is beneficial both for the environment and the monetary health of a city.

Petrol consumption in the city today is at the rate of the national average in the 1920s, which is an incredible achievement in today’s fast-paced, car-crazy world. In fact, in 2006 New York City’s high rate of transit use saved 1.8 billion gallons of oil and a whopping $4.6 billion (Dh17.26bn) in petrol costs.

New York saves half of all the oil saved by transit in the whole of the US.

And this reduction in oil consumption has kept the city’s environment clean as 11.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution was kept out of the air.

In 2005, the New York City metro area was ranked by the Brookings Institution as the US metro area with the lowest per-capita transportation-related carbon footprint and as the fourth lowest overall per-capita carbon footprint among the 100 largest metro areas in the US. New York City was outranked only by Honolulu and Los Angeles and Portland.

However, it is not just New York City’s MRTS that is responsible for these benefits.

In a car-crazy country the New Yorkers are unique as they prefer the use of public transport and use various means to get about the city and to work. Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 32 per cent use the subway, 25 per cent drive alone, 14 per cent take the bus, eight per cent travel by commuter rail, eight per cent walk to work, six per cent carpool, one per cent use a taxi, 0.4 per cent ride their bicycle to work and 0.4 per cent travel by ferry.

Apart from being beneficial for the environment and leading to saving in oil this use of various modes of transport has its health benefits too.

Scientists at Columbia University examined data from 13,102 adults in the city’s five boroughs and identified correlations between New York’s built environment and public health. New Yorkers residing in densely populated, pedestrian-friendly areas have significantly lower body mass index (BMI) levels compared to other New Yorkers. Three characteristics of the city environment – living in areas with mixed residential and commercial uses, living near bus and subway stops and living in population-dense areas – were found to be inversely associated with BMI levels.

Apart from transporting New Yorkers, the subway is a popular location for politicians to meet voters during elections and a major venue for musicians.

Each week, more than 100 musicians and ensembles – ranging in genre from classical to Cajun, bluegrass, African, South American and jazz – give over 150 performances sanctioned by New York City Transit at 25 locations throughout the subway system.

A history of transport in the big apple

The history of New York City’s transportation system began with the Dutch port of Nieuw Amsterdam. The port had maintained several roads; some were built atop former Lenape trails, others as commuter links to surrounding cities, and one was even paved by 1658.

The 19th century brought changes to the format of the system’s transport – a street grid by 1811 as well as an unprecedented link between New York and Brooklyn, then separate cities, via the Brooklyn Bridge, in 1883.

The Second Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the city – the port infrastructure grew at such a rapid pace after the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal that New York became the most important connection between all of Europe and the interior of the US. Elevated trains and subways were introduced between 1867 and 1904. In 1904, the first subway line became operational. Practical private automobiles brought an additional change for the city by around 1930, notably the 1927 Holland Tunnel. With automobiles gaining importance, the later rise of Robert Moses was essential to creating New York’s modern road infrastructure. Moses was the architect of all 669km of parkway, many other roads and bridges.


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